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A Writing Technique So Advanced You May Need a Black Belt to Attempt It
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Sep 10, 2013, 9:35 AM

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Backstory

Here's the backstory. Last November, we published an essay by Benjamin Percy in which he stated that backstory "is almost always unnecessary." He urged beginning writers, in particular, to stay away from the past. "Listen to the sensei when he tells you to achieve some mastery of kung fu before you start trying to kick down doors," he warned.

 

Not everyone agreed. In the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, Eleanor Henderson writes, "I wasn't born yesterday, and neither were my characters." (Ouch!) "There are a thousand and one ways to use backstory in fiction," she claims. "To dismiss backstory is to dismiss a powerful technique."

 

How important is backstory to your writing? Read the essays, and then, in the comments section that follows Henderson's piece, voice your opinion about the role of backstory. Oh, and don't be surprised if Henderson and Percy jump into the fray. (Note that you must be logged in to pw.org to leave a comment.) 

 

Read the Essays 

Over 900 Lit Mags Looking for Your Work

Our Literary Magazines database lists 930 publications seeking submissions.

 

Among the newest additions are Miniature Magazine and Cease, Cows. Both publish shorter work, Miniature Magazine to demonstrate "how much can be done with a little" and Cease, Cows because life is short.

 

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The Author's Voice

 

Listen to authors read excerpts from these new titles, exclusively on pw.org. 

 

Justin St. Germain reads from Son of a Gun (Random House, August 2013).

 

Tess Taylor reads from The Forage House (Red Hen Press, August 2013).

 

Aimee Bender reads from The Color Master (Doubleday, August 2013).

 

Vijay Seshadri reads from 3 Sections (Graywolf Press, September 2013).

 

More Podcasts

NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies (Sponsored Article)

 

What does it take to move ahead as a writer or journalist? Creativity, strong research skills, and the tools to communicate in print and digital media. From creative writing, to editing, to screenwriting, to digital journalism, the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers world-class, noncredit programs delivered in a way that only NYU can. Learn from masters in their fields and create in a stimulating environment. Courses offered on-site and online.

 

Enroll Today.  

 

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Poets & Writers' own Prize Reporter will keep you abreast of who is winning the big prizes, as well as upcoming deadlines you won't want to miss.

 

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